I was looking through the windshield of my rented car, past the kite-surfers riding the thundering waves just off the beach. They were traveling at high speed, jumping waves and riding effortlessly into the air and gliding back to the water. The odd seal played in the surf and the smell of sea and kelp wafted in through the open windows of the car.

It was one of those amazing days when there was not a cloud in the clear blue sky. The ocean was even bluer, sparkling with sunlight. There was a good breeze off the ocean to keep things cool and across the bay I could see the spectacular view of Table Mountain rising more than 1000 meters into the sky behind the city.

It was a hot day in early November and I was on vacation in Cape Town, South Africa for my son’s wedding.

Looking at the scene, I felt like I had died and gone to heaven. Cape Town is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth. (If you’ve never seen this part of the world, do yourself a favour, do a Google search on Cape Town you’ll be amazed.)

As I surveyed the beauty of the area, I noticed a small bug trying to get out of the car. It looked a little like a bee, but was a bright metallic blue.

Interestingly although all the windows were open, this little bug persisted in going up and down the windshield. It kept banging its head against the glass. Up and down, side to side, bang, bang, bang, repeatedly trying to go through the windshield toward the outside where it could no doubt see the beach and open air. Its wings kept beating frantically but it didn’t stop to rest, it seemed to get even more determined as I watched it.

It seemed oblivious that with a brief stop to look around, it could have turned right and flown out the window. I wanted to help it, but had nothing to guide it with. I wasn’t sure if it was able to sting and I wasn’t about to spoil my day by finding out.

It was interesting that this bug was trapped. It knew where it wanted to go, but no amount of effort would enable it to break through the windshield. This appeared to be its current mission.

It also knew how to stop and rest. It probably did that every night. It also knew how to turn left, it knew how to turn right and it knew how to fly in any other direction it chose. Yet it continued to bang up and down the windshield.

We got out of the car and went for a beer in the beach pub where we had parked. We left the windows open because we knew it would be like an oven when we got back in if we closed it up. Besides, we wanted our new passenger to escape.

When we returned later the bug was dead on the dashboard, as desiccated shell dried out by the heat.

This got me wondering. Why didn’t the bug try something different? It was capable of everything it needed to escape and yet it couldn’t. I assume its strategy for escape made sense to it.

But for someone with a different perspective it made no sense at all.

It seems the same to me with many of the business owners I meet. Many of them are extremely competent, yet most I characterize as busy and broke. They are working harder and harder repeatedly doing more of the same, assuming that the answer lies in working harder rather than perhaps working a little less hard and doing things differently.

When questioned, they tell me they know about most of the marketing techniques like referrals, direct mail, using bait, etc. They know they have to be unique and stand out from the competition. They appear to know just about everything they require to build a business that gives them a great income and a great future and yet they are so committed to doing what they are familiar with that they don’t look around them to see the options. They simply keep doing what they have always done and that usually ensures they’ll continue to get what they’ve always got.

My mother encouraged us as kids to read and one of her favourite sayings was; “Those who don’t read are no better than those who can’t read.” It strikes me that this is true for any knowledge. If you don’t use it, you are no better off than someone who doesn’t have the knowledge. Simply knowing about something is not enough.

Business owners who know but don’t implement or follow through on their knowledge probably console themselves with thinking that they gave it their best shot. They made a reasonable living, but never achieved what they could have by changing the way they work.

They mostly need the same things:

  • More time working on the business, less time working in it.

  • A process and a system for organizing their thoughts around how to market their business. Marketing is not an event and as a professional service person you should spend around 60% of your time in marketing and selling.

  • Some new skills. For example, knowing about referrals or direct mail does not translate into success unless you understand some of the nuances and insider secrets. I’ve seen a simple change to a headline on advertisement yield over 300% improvements in results, with no other changes being made anywhere in the advertisement.

  • A guide to keep them on the path to success.

  • Accountability to someone other than themselves.

  • A mastermind group of people to guide them when they are venturing into new territory or are stuck.

The strange thing is that even when the answers are this simple, many of them don’t make the necessary change.

The usual excuse is that they are too busy and this is probably true. They have to learn to make time for important things, otherwise they are trapped.

Each one of us has the same 24 hours in a day. Bill Gates, Donald Trump and Warren Buffett have no more than 24 hours each day.

So what makes them different?

We can either choose to give up things that don’t take us toward our goals or we can continue on our current path, taking years to learn things that others have conquered and found solutions for.

Do you want to take 30 or 40 years to work it out yourself or can you find a way to condense your learning into a much shorter period by taking advantage of what other successful people already know?